Book Review by Namrata

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Title: Animalia Indica –The Finest Animal Stories in Indian Literature

 Editor: Sumana Roy

Publisher: Aleph Book Company (2019)

Edited by Sumana Roy, Animalia Indica is a first of its kind collection of animal stories in Indian literature. From classic story tellers like R.K.Narayan, Premchand, Rudyard Kipling to the most recent maestros like Kanishk Tharoor, Perumal Murugan, and Nilanjana Roy, this collection features them all.

Sumana Roy is a Siliguri based author whose previous works include a non-fiction title (How I became a tree), a fiction novel (Missing) and a poetry collection (Out of Syllabus). She went on to win the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and the Tata Literature Live! First Book Award in 2017 for her debut book How I became a tree.

This anthology, with its beautiful cover, has twenty-one stories about humans and animals. It can easily be called a collector’s edition with the who’s who of Indian literature featured within. Not all of the collection is made of short stories. There are some poems; excerpts; two are novellas and one is an entire novel in its own. The selection is classic! It includes stories translated from regional languages and from Indian writing in English, with interesting end-notes about the narrative, authors and translators.  The magic of the stories makes something written in 1981 an equally intriguing read as one written recently. What makes the book even more eye catching and unique, are the sketches by Rohan Dahotre before each story (he has also done the stunning cover). Depicting the animal/s featured in each story, these black and white sketches set the tone for every tale that follows.

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By Aminah Sheikh

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

We do a lot of things, not knowing why. The same is true of writing. I don’t have a clear answer to this question. It could be said that I write because writing is my second nature.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My novel Poonachi Allathu Oru Vellatin Kathai (Poonachi or The Story of a Goat) was published in January 2017. It tells the story of a goat’s life in its entirety. In the novel, I experimented with writing both in the conventional mode of storytelling as well as deviating from it. Writing about a goat was more suited to my heart than writing about human beings. I share my experiences and perspectives through my writing. But for that, I don’t think of conveying anything or achieving anything with it.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

My style of writing is very simple. Many stories lie buried in my heart. Of these, I select the one which takes a complete form, and when time and state of mind are conducive, I sit down to write. Life is a multi-layered entity. It is writing with this understanding that perhaps defines the aesthetic of my work.